Bull Rider “Tuff” Hedeman soars above 2011 Cheyenne Frontier Days

The Thunderbirds, the flight demonstration team and “Ambassadors in Blue” for the United States Air Force, have had a long relationship with Cheyenne Frontier Days. The Thunderbirds first public performance was at the “Daddy of 'em All” in 1953, and the team has delighted fans at Frontier Days every year since. Since the kick-off flight at CFD, the Thunderbirds have performed in all 50 states and 65 countries overseas.

“The mission of the Thunderbirds is to go out and represent the awesome airmen of the United States Air Force,” said Captain Nicholas Holmes who flies plane No. 4 in the ‘Slot' position, “We go out and show the pride, precision, and professionalism, of the United States Air Force both on the ground and in the air.”

The Thunderbird demonstration is at Laramie County Community College (LCCC). It is a great venue as LCCC sits on elevated ground which gives an unobstructed view of the planes that are flying over ranch land. The media photographers are on top of a three story building and the planes fly so low that it seems as if you are on the same level as they are.

To start the show, the six plane formation arrives from behind the crowd. They fly at a low altitude and pull straight up over the crowd. As the air is suddenly filled with planes, the sound catches up and with that, the sound and action of the United States Thunderbirds show is underway.

The Thunderbirds were once again scheduled to fly at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 2011. When they discovered that bull riding legend “Tuff” Hedeman would be bringing his new organization, Championship Bull Riding (CBR), to the Frontier Days night show, the Thunderbirds decided that Hedeman was an obvious fit for a coveted, VIP flight with the Thunderbirds.

Like the Thunderbirds, Richard “Tuff” Hedeman has had a long relationship with Cheyenne Frontier Days. He was a competitor at Cheyenne during 1983-1997. He won the Frontier Days All Around buckle in 1988 and was the Frontier Days Bull Riding Champion for two consecutive years in 1995 and 1996. “Tuff” is very proud of the fact that he won the 1996 championship buckle, which was the 100th anniversary of Cheyenne Frontier Days. Both “Tuff” Hedeman and the Thunderbirds have been inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame.

Captain Nicholas Holmes, who is from Denver, Colo., and his grandparents have lived in Cheyenne, Wyo., for 90 years, said, “Having been to the ‘Daddy of 'em All' so many times and seeing so many different rodeos and bull riding, it's truly an honor, not only for me, I know several of the other team members are extremely excited to meet ‘Tuff.' I hope that he enjoys his flight and he gets to see what we do every day representing the Air Force.”

A VIP flight in one of the red, white and blue F-16's is a lot more than just climbing in the back seat and roaring down the runway into the ‘wild blue yonder.' The VIP passenger is given an orientation that can take three to five hours. Besides a physical exam to insure his body could endure the stress and strain of in-flight G-forces, Hedeman was given instruction by the Flight Surgeon Capt. Thomas Bowden, on things that he was to do to keep from ‘blacking out' during the high-speed loops and turns in the specially prepared F-16.